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    Albertsons’ head of retail media on the company’s ‘late mover’ advantage and what’s next in digital advertising

    In the high-stakes race among grocers building out retail media platforms, Albertsons is a late entrant. The company unveiled its own advertising business late last year and officially launched it in late February — well after competitors like Walmart, Kroger and Target had already built out their own shops.

    Lagging the competition seems surprising for Albertsons due to its size, and because it’s become known as a digital innovator and fast adopter of new technologies. But that isn’t hurting Albertsons Media Collective’s ability to attract significant interest from CPGs that want to spend with the grocer, said Kristi Argyilan, the retailer’s senior vice president of retail media. It also carries some advantages, she said, like being able to bypass many of the early growing pains retail ad businesses have had to go through and incorporate cutting-edge technology into the network.

    Albertson’s Media Collective is still in its early days, and the company is just starting to get data back on its opening campaigns, which shows a return for CPGs of up to $14 for every dollar spent, Argyilan said. The new business is also working on new offerings like a self-service platform and thinking about ways to expand its platform to include “non-endemic” advertisers, like car makers and travel companies.

    “We’re pushing it all forward at the same time,” Argyilan said in a recent interview.

    The ability for retailers to build incremental revenue through retail media is large and growing. Coresight Research estimates that global revenue from retail media advertising has tripled since 2020 and will hit $75.1 billion this year.

    Argyilan, who was recently president of Target’s Roundel media division and worked for various media agencies before that, said she sees plenty of opportunities for Albertsons and other grocers to nab advertising share from Google and Facebook as cookies go by the wayside and CPGs increasingly prize first-party data. 

    This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    GROCERY DIVE: You worked briefly at Bed, Bath & Beyond and before that spent several years with Target. What was interesting to you about the Albertsons role?

    KRISTI ARGYILAN: When you look at the size of Albertsons, the sales that go through Albertsons and all the related brands that Albertsons owns, it is a massive business and should easily be within the top five retail media networks that are out there. And they’ve been nowhere on that map prior to this moment. Realizing the scale and the potential was super attractive.

    Then to understand how [Albertsons CEO] Vivek [Sankaran] has this as one of his strategic priorities for the next couple of years, that we represent a really great growth lever for Albertsons, and then to be working within the company’s digital pillar and to see how much growth, agility, speed that the group is operating at — it just all came together all at the same time.

    GROCERY DIVE: Albertsons is a pretty late entrant to the retail media field. What challenges come with that?

    Kristi Argyilan

    Courtesy of Albertsons

     

    ARGYILAN: Being a late mover is an advantage because now all of these capabilities can be built and are built knowing where data privacy is going, knowing what Google is going to be doing with cookies, understanding the impact Apple and all of their privacy policies is having on other media channels being able to measure. It allows us to build for where this is going. A lot of our competitors have to work off what we call the “Frankenstack” because they have a lot of legacy systems that have been in place for the last couple of years, if not even longer than that. We’re coming in with the ability to just build it fresh in a more modern, more nimble sort of way. 

    The challenge is that, in some instances, we are kind of putting some companies over the tipping edge of being able to take on more capacity, and especially something that’s scaled at this size. You have to consider when you’re working with partners and asking them to take on something at the scale and complexity of Albertsons, to make sure that they really can take it up.

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